Record B.C. wildfire season inflamed by hot, dry and lightning-filled weather

Lightning, heat and desiccation — these are the weather conditions that helped fuel another record-breaking wildfire season in B.C.

Environment Canada numbers show summer was hotter and drier than normal across the province

More area in B.C. burned this summer than any year on record. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Lightning, heat and desiccation — these are the weather conditions that helped fuel another record-breaking wildfire season in B.C.

Environment Canada has compiled its seasonal summary for the summer, which saw about 13,500 square kilometres of the province go up in flames, the largest total on record.

Across the province, the weather was hotter and drier than normal, a result of persistent high pressure ridges that parked over the province for days at a time, according to a presentation from government meteorologists.

Kelowna, for example, had less than half its normal amount of rain between June and August. The city's average temperature during the same time was 20.3 C, compared to a normal of 18.6 C.

It was Terrace's third driest summer on record and Prince George's fourth.

On the coast, a week-long stretch of hot weather beginning on July 24 brought temperatures of five to eight degrees above normal. On July 30 alone, 11 cities broke all-time extreme temperature records, with highs of up to 40 C.

The province also saw an above-average total of 256,050 lightning strikes between April and August. That includes more than 20,000 lightning strikes in a single day on Aug. 11.

A graph from Environment Canada shows a big spike in the number of smoke hours in some B.C. cities during the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons. (Environment Canada)

Meanwhile, smoke from wildfires in B.C. caused 60 days of air quality advisories across western Canada, all the way to Manitoba. Four B.C. cities — Penticton, Williams Lake, Cranbrook and Victoria.— saw more than 300 hours of smoke. 

Looking ahead, Environment Canada forecasters say they have moderate confidence of a warmer than normal fall.